Tuesday, September 14, 2021




These interesting bottles, that don’t offer up much of their history by first sight, except for the embossed monogram, are more enhanced by the story of their proprietors. The primary clue is the prominent S&L monogram boldly embossed on the face. This represents the partnership of Frederick William Schmidt and Rufus Cane Lowell. Of these two men, the life of Schmidt is, perhaps, the most important relative to the bottle.

 Born in Kentucky about 1847, it is not known when he came to California. Having a relatively common name he is hard to trace, however, one person of interest stands out somewhat. He may have been the same Schmidt who was listed as a gunner in the Stockton Light Artillery Company in 1864. He would have been about 18 years old at the time. (Sacramento Daily Union, September 22, 1864)

 Schmidt arrived in Virginia City, Nevada, via the “Donner Lake route” in April 1868. (The Evening News, Gold Hill, Nevada, April 27, 1868) By November 1868, he was the musical director of Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City, (The Evening News, Gold Hill, Nevada, November 16, 1868) and then became the leader of the orchestra. (The Evening News, Gold Hill, Nevada, March 11, 1870) He held that position until the end of the year.(when Carl Williams took his place) After a hiatus of a few years, Schmidt was back at the Opera House and leading the orchestra again. (Gold Hill Daily News, Gold Hill, Nevada, February 16, 1874), until November 1875 (Lyon County Times, Silver City, Nevada, November 2, 1875)

 Exactly when Schmidt left the mainland for Hawaii is not clear, but his sojourn was just long enough for him to befriend the most significant figure in the development of Hawaiian music as we know it today. Unequivocally heralded as the father of Hawaiian music, Heinrich “Henri” Berger was selected by King Kamehameha V to create and lead the Royal Orchestra in 1872, which became one of the most important cultural features of Hawaiian society.  Berger was so loved by the King and subsequent Hawaiian rulers, that Berger led the famous band until his retirement in 1916. Several years into creating the band the King gave Berger permission to return to his former home in Prussia for a much deserved vacation. Berger, his wife and two children left Hawaii for his homeland at the end of July 1876, and returned via the Zealandia from San Francisco, on May 31, 1877. (The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Honolulu, HI, June 2, 1877).

 Henri Berger was born August 4, 1844, in Berlin, Germany, and died October 14, 1929 in Honolulu. He married first, Sarah Anna Booth, born August 2, 1850, in Hawaii, and died November 19, 1911, in Hawaii. She married first, Christian Frederick Pfluger about 1865 and second, Henri Berger, on January 26, 1874 in San Francisco.

 Berger’s vacation left the orchestra without a leader, and considering the value of this musical treasure to the Hawaiian people, it would be such a significant hiatus that Berger entrusted its temporary leadership to Fred Schmidt during his absence.

Berger’s wife was Sarah Anna Booth. She was one of 11 children born to Joseph and Anna McGuire Booth. Joseph Booth was the owner of considerable property consisting of the majority of Pauoa Valley, north of Honolulu and currently within its city limits. Booth also owned the National Hotel in downtown Honolulu. During Berger’s absence, Fred Schmidt married Clara Herminia Booth, sister of Sarah Anna Berger (nee Booth) on May 1, 1877, in Pauoa Valley, thus Fred Schmidt and Henri Berger became brothers-in-law.

 After Berger’s return from Berlin, Fred Schmidt, relieved of his temporary duties of orchestra leader, continued with his musical passion, giving several performances in Honolulu. (Hawaiian Gazette, Honolulu, Hawaii, August 9, 1876)


A show advertisement for performances by the Royal Hawaiian Band when Schmidt was its leader,  including some piano solos by him. (The Hawaiian Gazette, Honolulu, Hawaii, June 20, 1876)

 Shortly after Henri Berger’s return to Hawaii Fred Schmidt left Hawaii with his new bride, Clara, on June 20, 1877, aboard the Steamer Australia, bound for San Francisco. (The Hawaiian Gazette, Honolulu, Hawaii, June 20, 1877) The couple stayed in San Francisco for a year and then moved to Stockton in 1879. Schmidt became a regular fixture in the musical events of the Stockton area, including leading the Sixth Infantry Militia Band.

 For reasons that are unclear, Schmidt seized upon an opportunity to diversify his activities and joined in partnership with Rufus Cane Lowell in the enterprise of bottling the special sarsaparilla drink called SARSAPARILLA  AND IRON WATER. Just as Schmidt seemed an unlikely candidate for such a career change, Lowell also had no previous experience in such a venture. He was born September 21, 1851, in Portland, Maine, the son of John Pierce Lowell and Aphia Milliken Lowell. By 1866 the Lowell family was living in Sacramento, where the senior Lowell was a dealer in hides, wool, tallow and skins.

 Rufus Lowell excelled in school and developed a gift for public speaking for which he was amply praised . . . “Rufus Lowell gave a recitation which was warmly applauded.  Lowell is a fine elocutionist, and displayed a degree of cultivation in dramatic reading that is seldom excelled in that theater.” (Sacramento Bee, May 4, 1871)  He was in attendance at the University of California at Berkeley, at least for 1869.

 In 1874 Rufus C. Lowell married Nettie Simpson in a double ceremony that included his sister and her new husband. (Sacramento Daily Union, April 9, 1874)

 By 1875 his father relocated his business to San Francisco and took up residence in Oakland. Rufus and his brother, Henry, stayed in Sacramento. In 1875 Rufus Lowell was elected Auditor and Controller of Sacramento County. An audit of the Auditor / Controller was taken in 1878 and it was found that Lowell had defrauded numerous accounts in his favor. The matter was given to the District Attorney on felony charges. (The Sacramento Bee, May 6, 1878)  Lowell made good the money he stole from the County and pled not guilty for his actions. (The Sacramento Bee, July 31, 1878).  He was acquitted of the charges and he ran again for another term but didn’t succeed. In fact, he had to claim bankrupt status in the amount of $1500 the following year. (Morning Union, Grass Valley, CA, May 11, 1878)

Rufus Lowell’s older brother, Henry Lowell, was an important fixture in his father’s hide and wool business, and maintained his father’s sheep ranch activities near Sacramento. In the summer of 1876, Henry went missing and it was ultimately determined that his financial activities caused him to leave town with about $25,000 that did not belong to him. (Sacramento Daily Union, June 6, 1876) This loss to his father’s wool business was critical and having never recovered from his financial loss, his father was forced into bankruptcy by 1879. (Oakland Tribune, February 26, 1879)

 Rufus Lowell subsequently moved to Marysville, California, where he was involved with a new corporation called the Citizen’s Ice Company. For more years than could be counted, ice had traditionally been harvested during the winter and stored in locations that would keep it as long as possible for use in warmer months. With the advent of ice making machines in the mid – 1850’s, reliance on natural ice became less important, and by 1880 a large number of ice making machines were installed in American cities. The Citizen’s Ice Company was constructed to create ‘artificial’ ice as it was called at that time.


Rufus Lowell acted as general manager for the Artificial Ice Company in Marysville, established in 1880. (Marysville Daily Appeal, May 6, 1880)

 Not unexpectedly the new ice company ran headlong into competition from existing ice businesses in Marysville, with J. Tomb being the oldest and most established. He tried a variety of tactics to get the new upstart shut down, and it appears he was successful. For reasons unknown, Lowell could not compete and the Citizen’s Ice Company faded away within the year.


 This article documents the considerable competition the Citizen’s Ice Company faced while attempting to establish itself in Marysville. Tomb was apparently successful in defeating the upstart Artificial Ice Company, (Chico Weekly Enterprise, June 8, 1880)

 Lowell proved to be elusive during the first part of the decade of 1880 after the demise of his ice company. He was scheduled in the Sacramento voting register of 1882 (no occupation listed)  and then seems to vanish from the record for several years.

Finally, his next venture is a significant element as it relates to the subject bottle even though very scant documentation covers the subject. It was probably in late 1886 that Rufus Lowell and Frederick W. Schmidt crossed paths. This unlikely duo created a partnership in Stockton, California, which was primarily based on their Sarsaparilla and Iron Water. How this came about is currently a mystery, and judging from the lives of these two individuals, the story was likely out of the ordinary. The only commonality located was that Fred Schmidt became a director in the newly formed corporation called the Stockton Ice Company in 1886. (Sacramento Daily Union, March 26, 1886) While the scant evidence is solid, their partnership was probably a fleeting moment in time. The earliest evidence comes in the form of a State of California trademark number 1411, filed on January 17, 1887, by Schmidt and Lowell, who shared in the exclusive use of the term “Sarsaparilla and Iron Water”. Having never tasted such a concoction it doesn’t sound like something that could be successfully marketed, which may also have been the thinking of Lowell as well.

The trade mark documents for Schmidt and Lowell filed January 13, 1887, securing the words SARSAPARILLA  AND  IRON WATER for their exclusive use.

It can also be documented that the Schmidt and Lowell partnership was still functioning several months later by virtue of an extant sales receipt for a barrel of the same product, dated March 2, 1887. With that date in mind, note below that Lowell had formed another slightly later partnership with one Jimmy Howard in the real estate business, in Los Angeles, by September of the same year. Of course, it is always possible that Lowell maintained his partnership with Schmidt as a silent partner in absentia, but his ubiquitous ways imply otherwise. Complicating this issue even more is the fact that Frederick Schmidt was buried in the Stockton Rural Cemetery on September 28, 1887. His widow, the above noted Clara Schmidt, was the sole heir of her husband’s estate and Lowell’s name was not mentioned in the probate process, further bolstering the idea that he had severed his partnership with Fred Schmidt prior to his death.

A receipt for the sale of a barrel of Sarsaparilla and Iron Water, dated March 2, 1887. There is some evidence that Rufus Lowell had left his partnership with Fred Schmidt about June of 1887. It has been documented that a new partner, Walter Blackmore Starbird, took Lowell’s place at that time. Due to the length of this article, the later Schmidt and Starbird relationship will be continued in another ‘chapter’.

An example of the Schmidt & Lowell bottle, embossed with their S & L monogram. This specimen may look slightly different than most as it is the smaller size, containing about a pint. The more common size bottle contains a quart. All specimens noted have an applied top.


 By 1887 Lowell seems to have become closer his calling in life when he became part of a partnership in Los Angeles.  “A. J. “Jimmy” Howard and R. C. Lowell have gone into the real estate business, and opened an office at 40 1/2 South Spring street.  These are stirring young gentlemen, and should meet with a great measure of success”. (Los Angeles Herald, September 15, 1887) It becomes apparent that throughout the 1880’s Lowell actively pursued a number of jobs, with the hope that one may pay off. His next venture came in 1888, when the Sacramento Union noted, “Also, of the Pacific Manufacturing and Construction Company, to acquire, own, rent, bargain and sell clay land for the manufacture of brick, contract for the laying of the same, etc. Principal place of business, Los Angeles.  Directors – J.M Abrams, R.C. Lowell, L. O. Merrill, G.W. Judkins, J.R. Mores, Capital stock, $50,000.” (Sacramento Daily Union, April 6, 1888)

 Lowell registered to vote in San Francisco in 1888, and registered to vote in Alameda County in 1890, and then registered in San Francisco again in 1892. He then registered to vote in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1894. It is surmised that these locations reflect his ‘temporary’ residences while he was working on various street construction projects, since he was also noted in various newspaper articles as working in those areas.

In 1896 his wife, Nettie, filed a complaint for divorce from Rufus, undoubtedly on grounds of desertion or lack of support. (San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Sep 1896). 

In the 1900 U.S. census for  El Paso, Texas, he was living with his second wife, Grace, having been married for about two years. His occupation was noted as a street contractor. Lowell won a number of street related projects in El Paso in 1900 and 1901.

 The 1920 U.S. census finds Rufus still living with wife, Grace C. Lowell, but in Los Angeles. She was 65 years old, and born in Kentucky. Grace died Feb 20, 1923, in Los Angeles County, CA. Grace was the daughter of A.H. and Celia McDevitt.

At the age of 76, Rufus applied for a marriage license with Ida L. Dickey, of Hollywood, California, in Maricopa County, Arizona, on January 20, 1928. Rufus died July 1928 in Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times, July 19, 1928)


The grave stone for Frederick W. Schmidt, located in the Stockton Rural Cemetery. It is extremely rare for a stone to not include any birth or death information. I suspect there is an unusual story that goes with those major omissions – especially the missing death date. Cemetery records document his burial date as September 28, 1887. It is also interesting to note that an obituary could not be found for Fred Schmidt.




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